Domestic Weekly Update October 25, 2011

The problem isn’t food stamps in America. The problem is hunger in America. Let’s address the hunger problem and put people back to work. We will have less demand for food stamps and food pantries.

Senator Durbin (D-IL) during last week’s Senate floor debate on SNAP (Food Stamp) cuts

New and Urgent in This Weeks Update

Latest from Washington, DC

Organizational Updates


Build Your Network for Day of Action Next Tuesday to Protect Low-Income Americans in Budget Deal (October Action)

RESULTS volunteers have been great about contacting Congress this month about protecting vulnerable Americans in deficit reduction talks. Unfortunately, there is no new news on the progress of the congressional Super Committee tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in budget savings. Their negotiations are being held in complete secrecy and no one is talking. For all we know, they could be making great progress or none at all (many assume the latter). Regardless, we have to keep the pressure on them to make sure any plan they draft does not balance the budget on the backs of low-income Americans.

Our focus this month has been on making calls and writing letters to members of Congress and urging their support for our deficit reduction priorities:

  1. It must protect low-income Americans and not increase poverty.
  2. It must include substantial and progressive new revenue.
  3. It must create jobs.

If these priorities are ignored, anti-poverty programs like Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP (food stamps), the EITC, the CTC, and others could face serious cuts. Remember sweeping these programs are: Medicaid serves about 60 million people, half of them children; SNAP serves 45 million per month; the EITC benefits 26 million people. Therefore, changes to these programs, especially drastic cuts or restructuring, would have a far-reaching impact on a large portion of the American population.

That is why in addition to RESULTS volunteers taking action themselves this month, we have also worked to engage our local action networks. We’ve gotten friends, family, faith groups, book clubs, partner organizations and many others involved in this effort. We’ve also reconnected with your local Head Start and child care centers to help harness the powerful voices of these parents and staff in this process.

Now we want to make a push as we end the month, especially since the Super Committee will submit their proposal to the Congressional Budget Office in the next few weeks. Fortunately, we have help. Next Tuesday, November 1, RESULTS, the Coalition on Human Needs and other members of the SAVE for All campaign are joining Fighting Poverty with Faith for a day of action on the Super Committee. Our message remains the same — pass a plan that does not increase poverty, includes revenue and creates jobs. However, rather than a focus on generating calls on November 1, we urge you to use social media including Facebook and Twitter to contact your members of Congress (you can send e-mails on key issues like SNAP and Medicaid if you are not up for contacting policymakers using social media). As we all know, members of Congress sometimes have to hear things over and over again before they take action — this effort simply helps you be persistent and creative in doing that, and hopefully educate and engage others in your community as well. So for this week, start preparing.

Take Action: Build your list of contacts for next Tuesday’s push — brainstorm additional contacts (see our Activist Milestone for ideas), make sure you’ve got your action network email list compiled, and perhaps do some research for specific contact information on Facebook and Twitter for your members of Congress. Our allies at Families USA have created a first-of-its-kind tool that allows you to look up members of Congress by zip code, and gives you sample tweets focused on protecting Medicaid, and the Government and Social Media Wiki lists all the Facebook and Twitter accounts for the House and Senate.

And, if you haven’t already done so, be sure to call (toll free at (888) 245-0215) or write your members of Congress (our October Action) and say the following:

Hi, my name is _____________ and I am constituent from __________________ and also a RESULTS volunteer. I know that the Super Committee is working on a plan to reduce the federal deficit. I am very concerned that Congress will try to balance the budget on the backs of low-income Americans. This is wrong. Any deficit reduction plan must do three things:

  1. It must protect America’s most vulnerable and not increase poverty. That means protecting Medicaid, food stamps, the EITC, unemployment insurance and other basic safety net programs from reckless cuts and block grants.
  2. It must be balanced. All Americans must pay their fair share to solve this problem. That means including new revenue in the plan that equals or exceeds any proposed cuts.
  3. It must create jobs. Creating good jobs the surest and most sustainable way to reduce the deficit. Congress must enact a plan that gets Americans back to work.

I urge Representative/Senator ______________ to talk with Super Committee members and House/Senate leadership about drafting a plan based on these principles. And, a deal that harms low-income programs or stalls economic recovery is unacceptable.

We also have a one-page outreach action sheet you can print off and use for tabling or trainings you may be doing in the coming week. You can also use the media to push Congress to pass a balanced deficit reduction plan: use our online letter to the editor action to submit a letter to your local paper. See our recent blog post with many of the great new resources and tools to help advocates influence deficit reduction talks.

If you would like a recording of this month’s conference call where we discussed the October Action, you can listen on the RESULTS National Conference Calls page. Thank you to our October conference call speaker Debbie Weinstein of the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) for her great overview of what is at stake, and also thanks to CHN for providing the toll free conference call number.


Protect Nutrition Programs from Deep Budget Cuts

As noted above, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) is one of several programs that face steep cuts. Despite a record 46 million people lived in poverty in 2010, SNAP kept 3.9 million people out of poverty that year. Despite its success, some members of Congress are proposing drastic changes in SNAP. Luckily, last week a bipartisan group of senators defeated an amendment 58-41 that would have cut SNAP benefits to one million Americans. But, threats remain.

The House and Senate Agriculture Committees are working on a proposal to reauthorize the Farm Bill as a part of the Super Committee’s deficit reduction work. Programs considered as a part of the Farm Bill include SNAP, and there is a risk some lawmakers will push policies that will make hunger in the U.S. worse in order to meet their deficit reduction target, rumored to be $23 billion over ten years.

Take Action: Urge lawmakers to protect nutrition assistance programs that literally help families put food on the table. Use our online alert to tell them to oppose cuts to SNAP and other anti-hunger program, and urge them to weigh in with the Agriculture Committees this week as well as House/Senate leadership. In addition, urge your senators to sign onto the Gillibrand SNAP letter to the Super Committee -- the deadline for signatures is October 27. Also, help create a broader movement by joining thousands of faith advocates in the next week by participating in a “Food Stamp Challenge” with Fighting Poverty with Faith, and urge your members of Congress to do so also.


Early Childhood Investments Are Also About Jobs

We’ve spent a great deal of this year talking about Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). We’ve highlighted the obvious benefits of these programs both to the children who participate and their families. We’ve also discussed the societal benefits these programs generate, citing numerous studies showing the long-term advantages of early childhood education such as better health, lower need for safety net programs, and better self-sufficiency. But there is also one obvious benefit these programs create that is often overlooked — they promote work.

Free market idealists herald the virtue of work and say that if only people would work, they wouldn’t have to rely on the government. This may be true to a certain extent but if you have young children, you need early learning services in order to work. And these services are not cheap. The National Association of Child Care Resource Referral Agencies reported in 2010 that child care costs for an infant range from $4,550 (Mississippi) to $18,750 (Massachusetts). In 40 states, the annual cost of child care was more expensive than a year’s tuition at a four-year public university. Unfortunately, a new report from our friends at the National Women’s Law Center’s found that families were worse off in 37 states than they were in 2010 under one or more child care assistance policies as stimulus funding ran out.

Despite these huge costs to low-income households (the federal poverty line in 2011 for a family of four is $22,350), many lawmakers want to drastically cut Head Start and child care assistance, thus putting these families in a catch-22. Either a parent stays home and they have to live on much less income (and more government supports) or they have to go to work and live on much less income (and more government supports) because child care/preschool uses up a huge chunk of their income. We cannot have it both ways.

Many in the business community agree: 222 business leaders from 34 states sent a letter to Senator Harry Reid and Speaker John Boehner supporting early childhood development funding, including Head Start and child care. It’s pretty simple, if we want parents to work, they have to have child care. And if they are low-income, they have to have help.

Take Action: Remind Congress that early learning programs are also about helping families work. Cutting Head Start and child care services not only denies at-risk children a solid preschool foundation, it keeps their parents unemployed. Tell Congress to fund Head Start, Early Head Start, and CCDBG at the highest levels possible. Use our updated Outreach Action Sheet for talking points for calls and letters. You can use our online e-mail action to contact your members of Congress.

Also, consider organizing a site visit for your own members of Congress to see these programs firsthand during an upcoming congressional recess. Use the resources from our recent Site Visit training call to help set up these visits. Contact Meredith Dodson for support or if you have questions.


Fundraising as Outreach? Yes!

Have you ever considered a fundraiser as an “outreach event”? Some groups find that putting on a quality, enjoyable event is a great way to put RESULTS’ best foot forward in your community and build a local network of support. Whether you have a big name to draw attendees (like a member of Congress) or simply a fun idea (like a holiday party or wine tasting), a fundraiser can be a chance to turn donors into action-takers, or vice versa. Either way, a fundraiser is sometimes a foot-in-the-door to draw people who have been impressed by what you do, but too intimidated to come to an actual outreach event. Whether people write to Congress or donate $50, they will still be vital members of our RESULTS family and part of your local network!

In addition, a big congratulations to RESULTS volunteers in Chicago and the Seattle area for successful fundraisers last week, and good luck to those organizing fundraisers in Houston (THIS Friday), Santa Fe (November 4), the Washington DC area (November 18), Indianapolis (November 21) and Bremerton (December 4). Contact Cindy Changyit Levin at [email protected] for support in holding a RESULTS fundraising event.


Quick News

New Study Highlights Benefits of the EITC. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the largest poverty-reduction program in the U.S. In 2010, it lifted 5.4 million out of poverty. A new EITC study shows that the EITC is overwhelmingly claimed by families with children and EITC use of highest when children are young. The study also shows that 61 percent of EITC recipients claim the credit only for 1-2 years at a time. Finally, and particularly important when addressing EITC critics, taxpayers who claim the EITC end up paying much more in net federal taxes over time than what they receive in EITC benefits. Use our online alert to tell Congress to protect low-income tax credits like the EITC.

Webinar on Tax Credits Tomorrow. The National Women’s Law Center is hosting a tax credit webinar tomorrow, October 26 at 1:00 pm ET to explain how federal and state tax credits can give working families a leg up and briefly describe some credits of which families should be aware, including the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, and Making Work Pay Credit; register at the NWLC website.

Schedule Face-to-Face Meetings for Fall Recesses. Members of Congress will be heading back home in October for various recess weeks. Take advantage of this opportunity by requesting a face-to-face meeting with your representatives and senators to talk about our priorities. Use our online e-mail to contact their offices about setting up a meeting. Once you get a meeting scheduled, please contact the RESULTS Domestic staff to help you prepare.


Announcements

RESULTS Building in St. Louis! Ten guests came to last night’s group start presentation in St. Louis, and we are working to build and train a new group there. If you know anyone in the St. Louis area, urge them to get involved. If they need more details, please have them contact Jos Linn at (515) 288-3622.

RESULTS Outreach in Northeast. In early November, RESULTS Director of Domestic Campaigns Meredith Dodson will be presenting at the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness conference at the University of Maryland. This conference is another great opportunity for us to reach out to college students and engage them in anti-poverty advocacy. Meredith will also be traveling to the northeast in early November to work on starting groups there. She will be there the week of November 7 meeting with potential advocates in southern and mid-costal Maine, Boston, MA and meeting with Springfield College (MA) students on November 9. She will also be doing a group start presentation in Northampton, MA on November 10. If you know people in these areas, please contact Meredith at [email protected] for details.

Invite People to Upcoming RESULTS Orientation Calls. RESULTS will begin the next New Activist Orientation series in early November. This is a two-session series of conference calls designed to give people a more in depth overview of RESULTS’s work. It is perfect for new members of your local RESULTS group or anyone interested in learning more about us. The calls will be November 2 and 16 at 9:00 pm ET. Urge your new members or others you know to attend. To RSVP, please contact Lisa Marchal at [email protected]. Also, don’t forget to invite people you know to our bi-monthly RESULTS Introductory Calls. These 30 minutes “Meet and Greet” calls are designed to introduce new people to RESULTS. Our next call will be Monday, November 7 at 9:00 pm ET. If you know people who might be interested, please encourage them to sign up using the registration page.


Upcoming Events

(See a complete calendar)

Monday, October 24 – Friday, October 28: Senate recess.

Friday, October 28: RESULTS Houston Fundraiser. Contact Claudia Morgan at [email protected] for details.

Friday, November 4: RESULTS Santa Fe Fundraiser. Contact Lydia Pendley at [email protected] for details.

Monday, November 7 – Friday, November 11: House recess.

Wednesday, November 9: RESULTS Presentation at Springfield College (MA). Contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected].org) for details.

Thursday, November 10: RESULTS Group Start Presentation in Northampton, MA. 7:00 pm ET, 215 Prospect St, Northampton, MA. RSVP to Stacy Carkonen ([email protected]).

Saturday, November 12: RESULTS Domestic National Conference Call, 12:30 pm ET.

Monday, November 21 – Monday, November 28: House recess.

Saturday, July 21 Tuesday, July 24, 2012: RESULTS International Conference, Washington, DC (more details to come).


RESULTS Contact Information

Main Office: (p) (202) 783-7100, (f) (202) 783-2818, 1730 Rhode Island Ave, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036. If mailing a donation to our DC office, please address the envelope to the attention of Cynthia Stancil.

Domestic Legislative and Grassroots Support Staff:

The RESULTS Domestic Update is sent out every Tuesday over e-mail to RESULTS volunteers and allies all over the country. The purpose of these updates is to inform and activate RESULTS activists to take action on our domestic campaigns.